A Tibetan mother of three carried out a lone self-immolation protest and died in Tsotsuk village, Ngaba county, a Tibetan area located today in the Chinese province of Sichuan. According to Kirti Monastery in India which has its base in Ngaba, 47 year old Norchuk set fire to herself on Thursday night in the courtyard of the village’s community building, which explains why local Tibetans found her before the Chinese authorities and were able to conduct prayers and cremate her before her remains could have been seized by the security police.
It has been standard practice in several past self-immolations where the protester was taken away still alive for the authorities to inform his or her family the next morning that their loved one had died and been cremated during the night. This practice is viewed by Tibetans as a form of punishment and abuse of the protester’s family and community since it robs them of the opportunity to see and care for their loved ones, and perhaps more importantly of the opportunity to cremate them properly according to Tibetan traditions if indeed they died from their injuries.
Norchuk is survived by her husband Palzel, three children and her parents, Tsedak and Youdon. While not much is known about her at present, Norchuk is recently reported to have joined others in the region in giving up eating meat and dedicated her action to the long life of the Dalai Lama.
2015 is the 80th birth year of the Dalai Lama, and Tibetans in several areas in the region demonstrated their faith and loyalty to him through audacious public displays on Tibetan new year’s day over two weeks ago. Even in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa where about half of the Tibetans work in government jobs, and the security and control apparatuses are visible everywhere, Tibetans are reported to have demonstrated their loyalty to the Dalai Lama by openly uttering his name in prayer at his former palaces and temples. In an Orwellian test of wills, Lhasa state television broadcast a barrage of programming that urged people to observe the Tibetan tradition of casting out the old year’s spirit in the form of dough effigies on the night of February 18th, and dispatched hundreds of garbage trucks and workers with shovels to clean the streets afterwards as they do every year. However on the night of February 18th, the city was eerily quiet and didn’t require the services of the cleaning crew because Tibetans en masse refused to observe the call this year because the day fell on a Wednesday, the Dalai Lama’s ‘soul day.’
Since the 2008 crackdowns and mass detentions of peaceful protesters and even those simply voicing Tibetan cultural pride across the Tibetan region, there has been a renewed recognition on the part of Tibetans that they are not fully franchised in the Chinese state, and that they can be officially profiled as a race with discriminatory practices, such as in the issuance and renewal of passports, restriction in movement within China, and security procedures that are not imposed on the Chinese. It is this sense of being discriminated against by the Chinese government itself, along with the constant state of siege on Tibetan religion and monasteries that have been cited the most often as the main causes of the self-immolation protests which started 7 years ago in Tibet, itself seen as an act that is necessitated because there is no other avenue for Tibetans to express dissent or protest without ending up being beaten and tortured for doing so.
This is the fifth self-immolation by a woman in the same county and brings the total number of self-immolation protests in Tibet and Tibetan areas to 136 since 2009, out of which 117 have resulted in death.